Updated: Jul 20
Negative product reviews have always been a thorn in the side of Amazon sellers. Because Amazon goes to great lengths to keep the integrity of its review system in place, the company has historically protected negative reviews and made it difficult for sellers to do anything about them.
Amazon even removed the ability for sellers to respond to negative product reviews last year, a move that enraged sellers as that response was one of the only tools they had to contact the customer and to defend themselves to other potential buyers with. Sellers have been begging to have the opportunity to reach out to customers who have left negative reviews for years.
In a fairly surprising turn of events, Amazon has finally given sellers what they’ve been looking for in the form of a new tool that will allow them to contact customers who leave an unfavorable review on their product. Let’s take a closer look at how this feature came to be and how you can implement it in your customer service strategies.
Amazon's Surprising Announcement
When a poster on Amazon’s Seller Central forums posted a screenshot of the new policy, the first few responses were of disbelief that the announcement could actually be real. “Sorry, but this seems like someone’s pipe dream,” one poster said. “Maybe yours.”
But the screenshot was real. Amazon had quietly rolled out a new brand feature that would allow brands the opportunity to contact unhappy buyers directly. Here’s the announcement:
The Customer Reviews tool has been updated! You can now send direct message to customers who left critical review (star rating 1-3)
We listened to your feedback!
We’ve been tracking feedback from brands related to the Customer Reviews experience. We heard that you love having a way to see all your reviews in one place and that it is nice to be able to filter by star rating and time period. You also shared your frustrations over not being able to directly engage with your customers who left critical reviews.
We’re now offering a brand-only benefit that allows you to reach out to buyers who purchased your branded product directly from you, who left critical (1-3 star reviews) via templated emails that allow you to communicate with buyers via buyer-seller messaging.
We believe this will build brand trust and help establish stronger relationships between you and your customers.
How to Use This Feature
This feature is only accessible for sellers that have their brand registered through Amazon’s Brand Registry. I covered the true value of being Amazon Brand Registered earlier this year, and this new feature is yet another example of how important it is to take advantage of Amazon’s brand registry program.
Those familiar with the Brands Menu in Seller Central have likely already spent a good amount of time in the “Customer Reviews” section. Selecting this section will bring you to a page that shows all of your product reviews and allows you to search for specific ones by their product ASINs.
The “Customer Reviews” section has now been updated to include a “Contact Buyer” button in the top right corner of each review. If your product received a review of 4-stars or 5-stars, you will see the phrase “Great job! Reply not needed” in the corner. But if the review was a 1-star, 2-star, or 3-star review, you should see a button to “Contact Buyer”.
Clicking this button will give you two options:
Courtesy refund: Offer a full, courtesy refund or replacement item.
Customer review: Check with your buyer to clarify any product issues based on their review.
Each option sends a templated response that cannot be changed. The “courtesy refund” message reads:
“If you would like us to ship a replacement item free of charge, please reply ‘Replace item’ and confirm that the item description above is correct.
If you would like a full refund, please replay ‘Full refund.’
We hope that you give us another chance. Thank you very much.”
While the “customer review” message reads:
“Thank you for purchasing from our brand on Amazon.com. On [date of review], you left the following review of our product:
[Quoted product review]
We’d like to address any issues of concerns you have. Your business is important to us so please contact us and we’ll work to resolve your issues.”
Since this feature has just started rolling out over the last week, there are still a few glitches in the system that are not allowing some sellers to respond to negative product reviews. Some have speculated that the “contact buyer” option will not be available for buyers that have opted out of buyer-seller messaging.
Deciding which option to select
There doesn’t appear to be any downside at all to using this feature. Sure, some customers will ignore your offer to help or accept a refund without removing their negative review. But others will appreciate the customer service and either consider updating their review or giving your brand another chance in the future. Sellers should get into the habit of using the “Contact Buyer” button on all negative reviews that they are eligible to do so on.
Which option should you choose, though? Should you offer a full refund or replacement via the “courtesy refund” option, or simply reach out and ask for the buyer to clarify their concerns with the “customer review” option?
Some sellers may opt to always offer the full refund or replacement. This would be the more expensive option but could theoretically yield more favorable results as buyers may appreciate the gesture. Whether or not you choose to go this route may depend on your business’s profitability and the sale prices of your products as well.
Not a One Size Fits All
I think the best option would probably be to take things on a case-by-case basis. If a customer leaves a three-star review that says they wish there was a way to change the power setting on their tool and you know that there actually is a way to do this that the customer may have missed, the “customer review” option would be perfect. This logic would apply to any negative review in which you believe that further discussion or details about the product would remedy the situation.
On the other hand, if the customer is simply unhappy with your product and there doesn’t appear to be an easy fix, offer the refund or replacement. This is just good customer service and PR, and it may even result in an angry customer updating their review to a favorable one. Regardless of which option you choose on which product, start taking advantage of this exciting new feature in your store today!